Our Directory of Spirituality, referring to the mystery of the Incarnate Word, points out that the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity was made flesh in the womb of the Virgin and that “there Jesus taught us to praise, thank, sing and rejoice in the Almighty, Holy, Merciful, Saving, and Faithful God, like Mary”.
To end the year, we would like, following the Blessed Virgin Mary, to sing of the mercy of God and to thank the Giver of all graces for the benefits he has bestowed upon our Institute.
Unable to mention all, I pause to consider but a few which are particularly significant for us.
We would like to give thanks to God for the 19 foundations that we were able to open this year, three of which in new mission countries for the Servidoras.
- The Comunity “Nuestra Señora de la Altagracia”, Higüey (Dominican Republic). This community is dedicated to serving the National Sanctuary of Nuestra Señora de la Altagracia. This is the first foundation of our Institute in this country and in the in region of the West Indies (Antillas).
- The Comunity “St. Barbara” (Turkey). This is the first foundation of our Institute in this country, a place that holds particular importance in the history of the Church. According to tradition, the Apostle St. Andrew evangelized these lands, which were also passed through by the Apostles Peter and Paul and is where the Apostle St. John and the Blessed Virgin Mary lived.
- The Community “Our Lady of Peace”, Bagdad (Irak), for the assistance in the Apostolic Nunciature.
- The apostolic Community “Martyrs of Damascus”, Damascus (Syria), for the assistance in the Apostolic Nunciature.
- The contemplative Community “St. Joseph”, Arrameras (Albania). The particular intention is to pray for Holy Mother Church.
- The contemplative Novitiate “St. Therese of the Child Jesus”, San Pablo (Brazil). Their particular intention is to pray for the missions and missionaries.
- The Community “Our Lady of Fatima”, Cairo (Egypt), to help in the parish “Our Lady of Fatima”. It is the first community that is dedicated to apostolate in the Chaldean Rite. In addition, the sisters assist the elderly in the home of mercy that is attached to the parish.
- The Community “María Auxiliadora”, San Pablo (Brazil), for the administration and assistance of the school “Maria Mãe do Verbo Encarnado”. This school was founded from the Kindergarden “Creche Menino Jesus de Praga” where already the sisters had being doing apostolate.
- The Juniorate “Santa Mariana de Jesús”, Loja (Ecuador).
- The Community “Venerable Mother Julia Navarrette”, Dallas, Texas (United States). The sisters destined there are dedicated to teaching in the school of the parish “St. Bernard”
- The Community St. Catherine of Siena”, New Bedford, Massachusetts (United States).
- The Community “Our Lady of Bonaria”, Sardinia (Italy). Their particular intention is to implore the mercy of God for the many forms of evil that weigh upon humanity.
- The Community “Santa Maria Mazzarello”, Turin (Italy), dedicated to pastoral assistance in the IVE parish “Maria, Madre della Chiesa”.
- The Community “St. Michael Garicoits”, Bayonne (France), dedicated to pastoral assistance in the parishes “Saint Jacques” and “Saint François Xavier”.
- The Novitiate “St. Bakhita”, Ushetu (Tanzania).
- The Community “Our Lady of Siberia”, Nizhnevartovsk (Siberia), to pastoral assitance in the parish “St. Nicholas of Bari”.
- The Apostolic Community in “Makabata”, Pasig (Philippines) that assists in a school.
- The Contemplative Novitiate in Brooklyn (United States).
- The Apostolic Community “Little Shepherds of Fatima”, Moorveld (Holland) that assists in the IVE parish “St. Edith Stein”.
In addition to the new foundations we have also celebrated with joy important anniversaries of foundation in various communities and jurisdictions.
Those who celebrated 25th anniversary of foundation:
- Province of “Immaculate Concepcion” (United States-Canada-Mexico-Guyana-Suriname), begun with the opening of the apostolic community, “Santa Elizabeth Ann Seton” (Brooklyn, New York).
- Province of “Our Lady of Loreto” (Italy-Albania), opening of the Community “Santa Monica”, Sezze (Italy).
- Home of Mercy “Santa Gianna Beretta Molla”, San Rafael (Argentina). By the grace of God, after more than one year of difficult trials and uncertainty, the unjust case against our sisters has finally been closed due to the lack of a valid foundation. The support these sisters and our Institute received from the youth who had passed through this home and from hundreds of lay faithful and consecrated who defended this work of charity, is a reflection of the good that has been done to the benefit of the poor and of the Church. “Charity is indispensable for the evangelization of the culture” and works of mercy are one of the non-negotiable elements of our charism. For this reason we must work with great strength and dedication to diffuse the greatest possible good through them. We also give thanks to God for each of the 40 communities of our Institute that are dedicated to this particular apostolate.
Those who celebrated 20th anniversary of foundation:
- Province “Our Lady of the Desert” (Egypt-Tunis), begun with the opening of the apostolic community, “St. Mary of Egypt”, Alexandria (Egypt).
- Province “Our Lady of Zavanytsia” (Ukraine), begun with the opening of the Novitiate, “Blessed Josaphat Hordashevska”, Ivano Frankivsk (Ukraine), first community in the Byzantine Rite
- Contemplative Community “Maria Santissima delle Grazie” Velletri- Segni (Italy).
- Novitiate “St. Kateri Tekakwitha” Maryland (United States). -Juniorate “St. Teresa of Calcutta” Arequipa (Perù).
Those who celebrated 15th anniversary of foundation:
- Province “Mother of God, Empress of China” (Philippines–Tiwain–Hong Kong) and the Community “Our Lady of Antipolo”, Caloocan, Manila (Philippines), first foundation of the Servidoras in this country.
- Community “Notre Dame du Cap”, Toronto (Canada), first foundation of the Servidoras in this country.
- Community “Servant of God Luisa Josefa del Santìsimo Sacramento”, Santa Clara, California (United States).
- Community “St. Briget of Sweeden”, Reykjavik (Island). -The presence of the Servidoras in Holland.
In the year 2009, for the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the founding of the Religious Family of the Incarnate Word, a vow was offered to the Virgin of 25 new tabernacles in each of our Institutes. Various communities that were founded as a fruit of this vow celebrated 10 years of foundation:
- Contemplative Community “Santa Sophia, Divine Wisdom”, Burshtyn (Ukraine). This is the first contemplative community in the Byzantine Rite in our Institute.
- Community “Sacred Heart” Ushetu (Tanzania), first community of the Servidoras in this country.
- Community “Our Lady of Mato Grosso”, Mato Grosso (Brazil).
- Community “Blessed Eusebia Palomino” Vanimo (Papùa New Guinea)
- Community “St. Barbara”, Stykkisholmur (Iceland), first community of Servidoras in this country.
- Community “St. Liduina of Schiedam”, Den Haag (Holland).
- Community “Nuestra Señora de la Medalla Milagrosa (Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal)”, Vera de Bidasoa (España).
- Community “Maria Ausiliatrice”, Island of Asti (Italy).
- Community “St. Katherine Drexel”, Phildelphia (United States).
- Community “Our Lady of Jabarovsk”, Jabarovsk (Russia).
- Novitiate “St. Agatha Lin Zhao” Lipa (Philippines).
- Juniorate “Birhen ng Biglang Awa”, Lipa (Philippines).
Also, we give thanks for the anniversaries of the profession of vows of the Servidoras. This past December 8th, Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, 40 sisters celebrated their 25th anniversary of perpetual profession. These are the sisters who belong to the first group of Servidoras to make vows to live forever chaste, poor, obedient, and Marian following the evangelical way traced out in the Constitutions of our Institute.
Another 14 sisters celebrated the 25th anniversary of their first profession of vows. Many of them completed a pilgrimage to the Holy Land in order to give thanks for their vocation and in order to ask for the gifts of fidelity and perseverance in their promises made out of love for the Incarnate Word.
We thank God for the gift of new vocations: 109 novices received the holy habit this year (6 of whom in contemplative novitiates) and 118 made their first profession of vows. Moreover, throughout this year 51 sisters professed their perpetual vows, among these the first vocations from Lithuania and from Suriname.
During this year, 25 of our sisters entered the contemplative branch, and we continue to experience how God awakens in souls the desire to dedicate themselves to Him alone in solitude and silence, in assiduous prayers and generous penance.
In reference to our vocations, we cannot but mention the immense benefit we receive from the women committed to the 40 hours Project, who pray each month asking for the increase, the perseverance, and the holiness of vocations to the priesthood and religious life in the Church and in our Religious Family. In the past month of November, there were 2,424 adorers who in just one month united to pray for this intention. The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest (Mt. 9:37-38). Let us continue, then, to promote this apostolate from which are derived so many spiritual fruits.
UNDER THE PROTECTION OF THE VIRGIN MARY
We consider an invaluable grace the vocations we receive through our “patroness of the Institute before God”: the Immaculate and Pure Conception of Luján. She is “powerful in her prayer as Mother of God”, and from her hands we receive each one of the new members of our Institute.
For this reason “we would like to thank Her and entrust to Her once more all of our vocations, past, present, and future, such that She may continue to bless our Religious Family with this precious gift. Let us beg Her to grant us the grace to correspond to this unmerited gift from God and to always be holy religious of the Incarnate Word”.
To this invaluable gift may be added innumerable other graces received through the maternal providence of the Blessed Virgin Mary, in whose protection we take refuge in all of our perils and needs and to whom we ought to correspond as good daughters.
In July of this year, by means of a Circular Letter, I made the invitation to “examine and intensify our fidelity to the vow of Marian slavery which we have made, through which we must do everything always through Mary, with Mary, in Mary and for Mary”.
I also asked you to offer prayers and penances imploring “the grace of fidelity and protection for our entire Religious Family”, suggesting an additional day of fasting, a Holy Hour for priests on Thursdays, and pilgrimages to Marian sanctuaries.
From July 12 to December 8, more than 97 pilgrimages to sanctuaries of the Blessed Virgin Mary have been made in Portugal, France, Hungary, Spain, Switzerland, Bosnia Herzegovina, Palestine, Israel, Brazil, Greece, Ecuador, United States, Iceland, Tunisia, Lithuania, Jordan, Mexico, Hong Kong, Philippines, Taiwan, etc.
I would especially like to highlight those pilgrimages organized on the Provincial level. In Argentina, the members of our Religious Family joined together to pilgrimage on foot to the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Luján, Queen of our Institutes. It was a day of great joy, wherein we experienced once more the gentle care of Her motherly love. We have placed all of our intentions at the feet of the Immaculate Virgin of Luján, knowing that our Loving Mother never ceases to care for her missionaries.
In Italy, the Religious Family joined together to pilgrimage to Loreto December 10, the day on which is celebrated the miraculous relocation of the house of the Virgin. The Jubilee of Loreto had begun two days prior to this, initiated on the occasion of the centenary of Pope Benedict XV’s proclaiming the Blessed Virgin Mary of Loreto “the principal patroness of all pilots”.
It was a singular grace to chant the Angelus in the Holy House which was the silent witness to the Annunciation and Incarnation of the Word of God. There, we renewed our vow of Marian slavery and implored the Blessed Virgin Mary’s protection over our Religious Family.
Also, the communities of both Institutes pertaining to the Province of the Immaculate Conception honored their Most Holy Patroness on her feast day. Braving the rain and the cold of winter, they carried the image of the Virgin of Luján in procession to the National Grotto of “Our Lady of Lourdes” (Maryland). Renewing their consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, they returned to entrust to her our Institutes such that they may be the seat and throne of her heavenly love.
In Ukraine, a large group of religious and members of the Third Order pilgrimaged to the Sanctuary of the Virgin of Zarvanytsia. Our Religious Family and the souls entrusted to us have also been placed under this precious icon of the Mother of God, who has accompanied her sons in great and difficult trials.
VIRGIN OF LUJÁN PROJECT
I would like to take advantage to highlight here the work being done on the Virgin of Luján Project, which seeks to promote her devotion throughout the world.
Together with the fathers of the IVE, the project has seen the reprint of important literary works: Historia de la Virgen de Luján by Fr. Jorge Maria Salvaire, the critical and historical studies of Msgr. Juan Antonio Presas and the chronicles of Rev. Fr. Friar Pedro Nolasco de Santa María and of Fr. Maqueda. The first printing of these books was offered on her feast day. All of them, particularly the work of Father Salvaire, have been illustrated with lovely images of paintings completed by Sister María de Jesús Sacramentado Riera.
In her turn, our General Government has given 36 images of Our Lady of Luján since May 8, to honor the Mother of our Institute. Made in Brazil, as was the original image, these images have reached the missions of our Religious Family in Turkey, Scotland, Tunisia, Syria, Palestine, Russia, Taiwan, Egypt, France, Spain, Peru, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Iraq, and Papua New Guinea.
LOVE FOR THE SAINTS AND LOVE OF THE SAINTS
There are but few things that so fill the devout soul with consolation as does the love for our friends in Heaven: the saints!.
To the eminent example and protection of Our Heavenly Mother can be added that of our patron saints. This year, with the desire that a greater number of martyrs and saints protect our Institute and intercede for her, we have given to each contemplative community a new list of patrons. Among these can be found diverse Apostles, Saints, Doctors of the Church, and, above all, a great number of martyrs, some being related to the particular intention of each contemplative community or to the country where it is located. We have also deemed it fitting that every community receive as patron Saint Jean Theophane Vénard, the martyr who was a great inspiration for Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus.
In many contemplative communities, they have gone deeper into the lives of these saints through mensuales or conviviums, venerating with devotion their relics or seeking to attain them, adding their names to the chant of the litany of martyrs, naming them as patrons of their cells, etc. They have also taken advantage of the opportunity to make a deeper study of the grace of martyrdom, with the desire to share in the same magnanimous spirit which animated their new patrons to give their lives for Christ and for the Church.
We have emphasized the figure of Saint Catherine of Siena, virgin and Doctor of the Church, as model for the religious of our Institute. Both her condition as Spouse of Christ and her feature characteristic as mystic of the Incarnate Word have moved us to do so, because we believe that going deeper into her life and doctrine elevate the soul and distance it from superficiality. This year, we prepared to celebrate her feast with a triduum of prayer and good nights, and the very 29 of April we celebrated the Holy Mass in her honor. The Servidoras web site has published valuable material on the life and doctrine of the saint and a “virtual pilgrimage to Siena”. The sisters in Rome had the opportunity to venerate her relics in the Church “Santa María del Rosario”, which conserves the left hand of the saint; throughout the year, many sisters pilgrimaged to the birthplace of the saint.
Next January 17 we will officially begin the year dedicated to her honor, with the desire that it may “serve to reawaken in all of the Servidoras the fervor and love for the consecrated life and especially the consciousness of our primary and principal condition as Spouses of Christ”.
APOSTOLATES – IVE MEETING
Jesus Christ calls us to dedicate ourselves to “preaching the Word of God, sharper than any two-edged sword (Heb 4:12), in all its forms. (…) In carrying out popular missions, Spiritual Exercises, education and Christian formation of children and young people, and also works of charity with the most needy (abandoned children, the handicapped, the sick, the elderly), etc”.
By God’s grace, our Religious Family continues to carry out these manifold apostolates in distinct parts of the world. And this year, we can say that they were all present in a certain way in the international meeting of our Religious Family. Under the motto Instaurare Omnia in Christo, our religious, members of the Third Order, youth of the Voces del Verbo, and friends of our Religious Family met together in Rome to discuss the task of Evangelization of the culture.
We were able to experience in a powerful way the spirit of family, the unity which is the result of the charism and the love for the Religious Family to which God has called us. Missionaries from the five continents traveled to the meeting with members of the Third Order from their provinces, each one desiring to be formed and to know how to help to work more effectively “to inculturate the Gospel”.
I would like to point out that, among the many apostolates in which we are able to work together, we find the organization and preaching of the Spiritual Exercises, an apostolate which is intimately linked to our charism. Number 171 of our Constitutions affirms: “In its spiritual dimension, the Institute will carry out the evangelization of the culture through the sanctification of individual persons. This will be done preferably by assisting in the Spiritual Exercises according to the method and spirit of Saint Ignatius of Loyola”. By this means, in addition to the continual collaboration with the priests of the IVE in the organization of the Exercises, and to the preaching ourselves when the circumstances so demand, it would be very useful to include the valuable help which our Third Order affords in order to prolong the “Incarnation of the Word in all men” by means of the holy exercises.
The whole event took place in an atmosphere of great joy. Through the talks, the times of recreation, the beautiful Liturgy (both Roman and Byzantine Rites), we went about contemplating the beauty of the multifaceted aspects of our charism. It has been for us a gift from God, Who deigned to console us and to give to his children the motivation to seek after holiness with a renewed fervor of faith, hope, and charity.
This year we have held the General Conference of Provincial Superiors, the General Conference of Contemplatives and the General Conference of Formators. We profoundly give thanks to God for the spiritual fruits of these reunions, in which the spirit of family, the spirit of joy, unity of judgment and a great desire to continue growing were emphasized.
During the General Conference of Provincials and of the Formators we had in addition the opportunity to pilgrimage to Siena. Our visit resembled a type of “stations” as we stopped in the diverse points in this city that is tightly linked with the life of St. Catherine. During the General Conference of Contemplatives we were able to make a pilgrimage to Spain, there visiting the places connected with St. John of the Cross. Both pilgrimages were a great benefit for all.
Continuing the thanksgiving I would like to mention the canonical visits realized to the distinct communities of our Institute.
I would like to emphasize the visit made to the Community “St. Tecla” in Alepo (Syria). For ten years now our sisters have given a testimony of Jesus Christ in a country with a Christian minority and they continue to do so until today, after the devastation of a war that is still extremely close. As we have mentioned before, this is a great grace to have a second community in Syria.
I also highlight the visit to the Community “St. Mary Salome” in Anjara (Jordan), dedicated to the home for children and youth, to the apostolate in the local parish, and the assistance in the Sanctuary of the Virgin of the Mount. For almost ten years the image of Our Lady of the Mount cried blood in front of one of our sisters and thanks to the work our Fathers this year they restored the Sanctuary that holds this precious image.
Furthermore I would like to mention the visit made to all the communities in the Province “Nuestra Señora de Luján” (Argentina – Chile). It was a great joy to see the growth of the first communities and apostolates undertaken for our new born Institute. I give thanks particularly for the missionary impulse of the sisters of this Province and the generosity of those that have received new destinos, various of them destined to finish their formation in Italy.
I give thanks also for the visits made to the communities present in Russia, Guyana, Suriname, Albania, Tùnez and to various other communities in Ukraine and Italy.
One of the great riches of our Institute is to count the members of our Religious Family in Heaven who interceed for us.
For this reason we give thanks to God for the sisters María de July and María de Betharram, who after many years of illnesses and sufferings, this year they departed for the reunion with the Incarnate Word. After having searched for Him and having served Him throughout all of their religious life, now they contemplate forever the glory of God. “I am happy to be a Servidora”
(“Estoy feliz de ser Servidora”) said Sr. Betharram the day before her death. Her and María de July arrived to Heaven through the way of life traced out i our Constitutions and from there they will continue to accompany us and interceed for the Religious Family that they loved so dearly.
A NEW HOME FOR THE GENERAL HOUSE
The last five years, the General House of our Institute was located in the General House of the Daughters of Christ the King, a Spanish congregation founded by Venerable Fr. Joseph Gras. This year, the sisters who generously welcomed us into their convent moved their General House to Spain, and we were in need of finding a house in Rome before the end of 2019.
Once more, Saint Joseph showed us his fatherly providence and he who two-thousand years ago looked for a place for the Child Jesus to be born, this time came down from Heaven to look for a house for the Servants of the Lord. In this way, less than a week before Christmas we signed off the purchase of the house and moved during the Christmas Octave.
I would like to mention the great help given by the sisters of the Novitiate and the International Juniorate who worked continuously with generosity and contagious joy so that we could move to the new house in just a few days.
We are very grateful to the Provinces who have helped us economically in order to purchase this house and to all the sisters who have prayed for this intention. With this we have been able to make concrete the decision made in the last General Chapter of acquiring a house of our own for the General House of the Institute.
We give thanks to God for the great gift He has given us through Saint Joseph and which will greatly benefit the whole Institute. Tonight we will sing the Te Deum inaugurating the new house.
As we mention these graces, each one of us can recall many others received on a personal and community level. We should pause to reflect over them and to always be grateful to God, who disposes all things for our good, knowing that God blesses grateful hearts with even greater graces. As St. Bernard said, blessed are we in pouring forth our gratitude even for the smallest benefit “neither doubting nor hiding that it is purely a gift”. For this reason, “let us fervently dedicate ourselves to giving thanks so as to attract the grace of our God, who alone is capable of saving us. And let us not be grateful only in word and in speech, rather in deed and in truth”.
May the Blessed Virgin Mary, our true and proper spiritual Mother,obtain for us this grace.
In Christ and the Blessed Virgin Mary,
M. Maria Corredentora Rodriguez